It’s easy to get swallowed up in some of the inspiring stories of children who defied horrific odds to prevail in the matric exams. And it’s easy to get beguiled by an improvement in the pass mark of 78.2% of the 630,396 children who wrote the exams. But as Mary Metcalfe, an associate professor of education at the University of Johannesburg, wrote this weekend, only about 60% of the 1-million children who started grade 1 in 2007 ended up writing those exams. Add in those who failed, and the reality is that "the celebrations are for no more than 46% of our children". Nic Spaull, a senior researcher in Stellenbosch University’s economics department, has also flagged how government has made it easier to achieve a "university entrance" from the matric exams, which created a 12% jump in the number of children who qualify for university. This suggests a looming crunch for universities, which are already under pressure to provide free education. "Enrolment increases of weaker students coup...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now